Monday, August 25, 2008

Handicap or Disability. Which do you have?

My father said something to me that I will never forget. He said “You are not handicapped. You may have a disability, but you are the least handicapped person that I know.” He went on to explain that a handicap has entirely to do with a person’s judgment about a disability. This includes the person with the disability as well as the observer.

Are we just talking about semantics? I don’t think so. I think that there is much more to it than that. The language we use not only defines us and how we relate to our disabilities, but also how the world sees those of us who live with a disability.

Am I handicapped? NO, unless you consider a handicap an advantage given to others as they do in horseracing or golf. What are some of the advantages that I enjoy? I get better parking spaces, I get right through airport security and everyone wants to take me to Disneyland so that they don’t have to wait in long lines to get on the rides.

Am I disabled? NO. To call myself disabled would be to say that there is something wrong with me as a person. I am a fully functioning, living person who, among other things, has and lives with a disability. I lead an amazing and incredible life, filled with love, family, friendship, adventure and romance. There are plenty of able-bodied people living in this world who do not have the life I have or the ability to think, feel or communicate as I do. That is their disability. Mine is that I don’t walk so good. (There are other ‘less visible’ conditions that I also have, but the world doesn’t see those.)

I also have an advantage. That advantage, what I have learned from living with a disability, is gratitude. Like most people, it was easy to take my good health for granted. Now, I don’t. Now, I cherish every ability that I do have and do much to preserve those abilities. Do I still take things for granted? Probably, but it is certainly less than before.

Most importantly, I have discovered that there is a direct relationship between the gratitude I feel and the happiness I enjoy. Feeling and being grateful have become the keys to my waking up happy every day of my life. I consider that an advantage.

Hmmmm.......If a handicap is an advantage (like golf or horseracing), then I guess I do have one. Lucky me!

Participate. Make a difference. Live a life that matters.


  1. I think your parents, particularly your Dad, had a huge influence on how you percieved yourself, while you were growing up..........essentially he told are as you percieve yourself !.......If you see yourself as disabled.........instead of a person with a disability........then you are indeed.......disabled !......What a smart give you such a healthy beginning., important distinction I Dad !..........Peace and love......Norma

  2. Hey, Buddy! Good to "see" you! Missed you in Sacramento at the CAMB were certainly there in spirit. Bob and I miss you and Gail and think of you often. Be well, my sweet friend, Pam Strickland

  3. We all need more people like you in this crazy world Michael. I like to think I handle this disease pretty optimistically, especially since I was diagnosed only 8 years after my dad died from MS at the young age of 48. But it took me ten years to realize that multiple sclerosis has given me pride. I'm actually proud to have MS because it's given me incredible opportunities and allowed me to meet some amazing people. I'm going to be out there next weekend pedaling away for BIKE MS and you will be on my mind and in my heart the entire time.

    Sharon Dodge

  4. Well michael, I can honestly say that your writings are very inspiring and invoke us all to be grateful for what we have in our lifes.

    I am so gald to have met you and Gail, and I wish you all the best. I will also keep reading as long as you keep writing!

    With lots of love,